First Black Hole Ever Photographed Is Wobbling In Unexpected Way

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 24 Sep 2020 18:13
Event Horizon Telescope

A black hole known as M87* has been found to be wobbling and rotating, proving that black holes change over time.

M87* became particularly well known last year, as it was the first ever black hole to be successfully photographed.


Scientists initially believed the black hole was acting as it was expected to, but following further research have found that’s not quite the case.

The black hole, which is located 55 million light years away, was analysed over seven days last year, though scientists have said that was too short a time frame to properly analyse its behaviour.

Now, researchers have looked at observations of M87* from between 2009 and 2013, hoping to gather more information about black holes in general. Since the data collected during those years won’t have been as detailed as that of 2019’s observations, scientists ran the data through statistic models to understand how the appearance of M87* could have changed over time, The Independent reports.


Following further investigations, researchers found that the crescent shape seen in the original image of the black hole appears to remain constant over several years, but while the diameter of the ring stays the same, M87* actually wobbles over time.

It’s believed the wobbling is due to gas falling onto the black hole. Because of the extreme heat at the edge of the black hole, the gas is thrown around, like air turbulence around a place, making it appear as if the black hole is wobbling.

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Maciek Wielgus, an astronomer at Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian and lead author on the paper, explained:


Because the flow of matter is turbulent, the crescent appears to wobble with time.

Actually, we see quite a lot of variation there, and not all theoretical models of accretion allow for so much wobbling. What it means is that we can start ruling out some of the models based on the observed source dynamics.

Following their discovery, scientists are hoping to monitor M87* to get a more accurate look on the behaviour of black holes.

Geoffrey Bower, a project scientist on the Event Horizon Telescope, added:

Monitoring M87* with an expanded EHT array will provide new images and much richer data sets to study the turbulent dynamics.

We are already working on analysing the data from 2018 observations, obtained with an additional telescope located in Greenland. In 2021 we are planning observations with two more sites, providing extraordinary imaging quality. This is a really exciting time to study black holes!


The Event Horizon Telescope is the instrument that was used to take the images of M87*.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Science, Astronomy, Black Hole, Now


The Independent
  1. The Independent